Bruce Newman of The San Jose Mercury News wrote a fantastic article on Linx landing front and center of today’s newspaper!!
Valentine’s Day is the only holiday that divides the world into successes and failures — on this day you either have a valentine, or you don’t. And while many couples have come to regard the whole thing as a Hallmark hookup — a prix fixe pain in the “But honey, I forgot to make reservations” — that’s easy for them to say. They have somebody.
Being on the losing side of yet another Valentine’s Day is particularly painful in Silicon Valley. Here, men with sketchy grooming habits and a tendency to talk too summa cum loudly when trying to meet women frequently find that their successes in business don’t prevent them from being romantic rejects.
While many of the valley’s lovelorn have tried to find each other using the algorithm method — subscribing to dating services such as Match.com and eHarmony — some have gone positively medieval, turning their love lives over to matchmakers.
When Amy Andersen noted this pool of unrequited love in 2003, she opened Linx Dating, a personalized matchmaking service that attempts to connect Silicon Valley men with “gorgeous,” “attractive San Francisco women.”
Andersen rescues laptop lonely hearts by introducing millionerd frogs to Junior League princesses, often transforming the men with the help of hair and wardrobe consultants.
Love-starved clients sometimes endure “mock date” coaching sessions that prepare them for the real thing. “My job is to serve as their
VP of marketing,” Andersen said shortly before one of these ardent tutorials. “We are strategizing about what to wear, what not to wear, what to say, how to act, sound bites, areas to stay away from.”
The mock date takes place at the Four Seasons Hotel’s Quattro, the East Palo Alto restaurant that frequently has served as Andersen’s satellite office. She wants to cure one of her VIP clients of a ruinous rush to judgment that has subverted some of his seven prior Linx dates. On this night, Andersen has arranged for a stunning 26-year-old woman who works at a San Jose medical device startup to “bait” the client about his liberal politics, his atheism and his militant vegetarianism.
For the first half-hour, the two make conversation as if they are taking turns conducting a job interview. And in a way, maybe they are. But things take a turn when Vanessa asks Kevin, the 37-year-old co-founder of a money management firm, if he’d be interested in sharing a prosciutto appetizer.
“I haven’t eaten anything that had feet for several years,” he replies.
Sitting at the table between them, Andersen blinks hard as this declaration lands with a thud, then corrects him peremptorily. “Kevin, I would want to know that it’s OK for me to order whatever I want.” This is sort of like having your mother with you on a date.
The challenges Kevin presents to any woman who wants to get close are many. “He can be very rigid and judgmental, so it’s like doomsday on a date with him,” Andersen said earlier. “I’ve found he can be kind of a glass-half-empty guy. If the woman doesn’t fit perfectly into Kevin’s world, he’s going to judge her and possibly eliminate her in his mind before the entrees even arrive.”
Vanessa is Andersen’s emissary in tonight’s skirmish of the dating wars. She has been instructed to lead Kevin into verbal traps and expose his weaknesses — turning the elegant eatery into her swain’s house of pain.
“Kevin doesn’t have good body language, and he makes terrible eye contact,” Andersen said. “Mock dates put what we’ve worked on into practice. They can be transformational experiences.”
The only thing being transformed by the small talk on this date are Kevin’s chances of getting a second shot with Vanessa. She tells him about a type of Japanese cattle that gets daily massages — a nice light moment — and brings up the possibility of dining on free-range beef. “But I would want to know more about the whole life cycle,” Kevin replies. When Andersen suggests that he change topics, he answers testily, “Well, she asked me about it.”
Hard to please
Clients pay up to $50,000 for two years of Andersen’s romantic concierge service. While not exactly raised by wolves, many might charitably be described as socially backward. Andersen views them as “a challenge.”
“I love the guys down here,” she says of Silicon Valley men. “It’s almost as if they’ve been living under a rock, hyper-focused academically and career-wise. Then they wake up one day, typically at 38, and have this ‘aha’ moment in which they realize, ‘I have everything lined up in my life, but where’s the woman?’ ”
Andersen has a network of 15,000 subscribers to her “Dating Confidential” newsletter to draw upon. She has more than 1,000 paying clients — almost equally balanced between men and women, she says — as many as 40 of whom pay for two years of her VIP service. They frequently are results-oriented and accustomed to getting their way.
And they can be finicky. Andersen has one male client looking for “the Heidi Klum body and Einstein brain,” so he lubricates the process by paying an additional fee to vet possible dates who aren’t Linx clients. Her female customers can be just as difficult to please. “Sometimes women will come in and say, ‘I need the 6-foot-4 hottie. I need him to be making $500,000 a year and have an awesome sense of humor.’ And my head is spinning. It’s like weird science or something.”
Kevin isn’t discouraged that all his dreams didn’t immediately come true. “We’re getting closer and closer to understanding each other,” he said a few days later. “People just have to give the process a little bit of time to work. But I believe it can, and I hope it will.”
He was talking about his relationship with his matchmaker. He never saw Vanessa again.